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Cold Weather Riding Tips

You and your horse can continue to enjoy each other in winter despite the challenges cold weather riding brings. In fact, you can take advantage of the quieter season to foster your bond with your horse through grooming sessions, groundwork, and lots of winter riding at the walk.

Many riders stable their horses at facilities with indoor riding arenas to permit them to continue a steady winter riding program. A few simple adaptations to the routine can keep your horse healthy in his indoor work. If you don’t have access to an indoor riding facility, don’t despair— you’re in good company. Many backyard horse owners give their mounts time off once the ground freezes, with just an occasional snowy trail ride to enjoy the winter scenery. Others do the best they can as weather conditions allow to keep their horses going as steadily as possible. Even walking under saddle regularly can keep your horse somewhat fit.

With a little creativity, the help of a few key pieces of equipment and winter riding apparel, and by following some basic guidelines, you and your horse can enjoy the winter riding season together.

For the Rider

  • Dress in layers so that you can maintain a comfortable body temperature during cold weather riding. Just as you want to prevent your horse from becoming chilled from perspiration, prevent this in yourself too. Layering allows you to add or remove clothing easily as your body temperature changes. It also works because you build pockets of warm air within the garments for insulation. Choose fabrics to wear next to your skin that are designed to wick away perspiration so that you don’t feel damp, which makes you colder.

    Avoid wearing tightly fitting clothing and footwear. Wherever your body comes in contact with the surface of a garment or boot, you transfer your body heat to the item— in other words, you lose heat.

    On top, consider wearing a high-necked shirt such as a fleece turtleneck. Fleece is an exceptionally warm layer that allows perspiration to move away from your skin. Or combine an athletically styled shirt with a microfiber vest. Vests are wise layering choices as they keep your torso warm and fit well under outer layers.

  • When you're thinking in terms of outer layers, there are many options to consider from jackets and parkas designed specifically for equestrians. Not only are these garments moisture-resistant and insulated, they're cut to help you ride comfortably, with styling that won't hamper your position in the saddle. Details such as tapered waistlines reduce bulk, longer back hemlines keep you covered in the saddle, and strategically placed gussets allow you freedom of movement.

  • Insulated winter riding boots are intended to create space for warm air to circulate inside the boot. If your toes touch the end of a boot, your foot will feel colder, so be sure that you select your perfect fit. You'll find tall winter riding boots and winter paddock boots offered in a variety of styles, from sleekly styled boots suitable for winter competitions, to more rugged, sporty styles suitable for walking through snow.

  • Tip: Check Stirrup Iron Size with Insulated Winter Boots

    Most winter boots are wider than regular paddock or tall boots. Your irons should be one inch wider than the width of your boot at the ball of the foot. When your foot is in place, you should have 1/2 inch of space on each side. If your boot fits too snugly into your iron, it could be difficult for you to separate your foot from the iron in the event of a fall— a very dangerous situation.

  • Your head allows for much of your body's heat loss. Because they cover your head, helmets will help retain some heat. But a Thermo Tech Hat that covers the head, ears and neck will go a long way toward maintaining your body temperature.

  • Check weather reports and find out the wind chill factor. Wind chill factor is a combination of temperature and wind speed. It makes your body lose heat faster and makes you feel colder than the actual temperature reading on your thermometer would lead you to believe. For example, if it is 32 degrees Fahrenheit with no wind chill factor, you may actually feel warm when standing in the sun. But 32 degrees Fahrenheit with a negative 10 degree wind chill factor will leave you feeling miserably cold, and you’re more susceptible to frostbite.

  • Though the sun is farther away in your winter riding season, it still has the potential for damaging effects. Continue to wear sunscreen as you do in summer, and remember sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays and snow glare when you’re riding outside.